DNA Evidence At Lab For Re-Evaluation In 30-Year-Old Waco Triple Murder Case

By: Paul J. Gately Email
By: Paul J. Gately Email

WACO (December 4, 2012)--The defense attorney for the last living convicted killer in the 1982 murders of three teenagers at Lake Waco says DNA evidence he's been trying to obtain for testing for years has been released by a California lab and is now in Fort Worth for evaluation.

Waco attorney Walter Skip Reaves said the evidence was received during the past 24 hours at the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office and is ready to be re-tested if necessary.

Reaves said he'll ask 54th State District Judge Matt Johnson to cancel a hearing that was set for Friday morning to compel two California scientists to release the evidence, which Reaves says could eventually lead to freedom for the sole surviving defendant, Anthony Melendez.

Melendez, 50, was one of four men convicted of capital murder in the grisly 1982 murders.

His brother Gilbert Melendez, David Wayne Spence and Muneer Muhammad Deed also all were also convicted in the case.

A spokeswoman for Forensic Analytical Sciences Inc., in Haywood, California, told News 10 in a telephone interview it was the company's policy not to release information to news organizations and would not confirm if any evidence had been sent to Texas for re-testing, but Reaves said Thursday he had spoken with officials in Fort Worth and they had confirmed receipt of the evidence from California.

Judge Johnson had once before ordered scientists Edward Blake and Allen Keel of Forensic Science associates to appear in Waco court and turn over DNA evidence that Reaves had paid them to test.

Part of that payment came from the Innocence Project.

When Keel refused to show up at the last hearing, Johnson issued a bench warrant for him.

A recent ruling by a California judge upheld the Waco court ruling that the men did have to show up in Waco at next appointed hearing, which was set for Friday.

Reaves says he believes there is enough proof that Melendez was in Bryan the night of the brutal murders.

The DNA was found on clothing of the three victims and shoestrings used to tie them up.

Raylene Rice, 17, Jill Montgomery, 17, and Kenneth Franks, 18, were tortured and killed on July 13, 1982 in what prosecutors said was a murder-for-hire scheme gone wrong.

Fishermen found the bodies of the three teenagers the next day at Speegleville Park on Lake Waco.

They had been stabbed repeatedly and the two girls had been raped.

Melendez and his brother Gilbert were sentenced to two life terms after pleading guilty to charges stemming from the murders.

Gilbert Melendez died in prison in October 1998.

David Wayne Spence, who prosecutors said was hired by Waco storeowner Muneer Mohammad Deeb to kill a female employee, Gayle Kelley, in order to collect on her insurance policy, but who mistook Montgomery for the woman and killed her and the other two teenagers in a case of mistaken identity, was executed in April 1997.

In his final statement, he insisted he was innocent.

“I want you to understand I speak the truth when I say I didn’t kill your kids. Honestly I have not killed anyone,” he said.

Spence was twice convicted of capital murder in trials in 1984 in Waco and the next year in Bryan.

After the first trial, the Melendez brothers agreed to a plea deal that spared them from the death penalty in exchange for their testimony against Spence in the second trial.

They both later said they had nothing to do with the murders of the teenagers and pleaded guilty because they believed they would have been sentenced to death if they had gone to trial.

Deeb was also convicted and sentenced to death, but won a new trial and was acquitted in 1993.

He died in Dallas County in November 1999.

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